Colombia’s vice president on Tuesday said his government was willing to continue talks with left-wing rebel group FARC, and encouraged the rebels to cease fire.
“They have to promise to cease all criminal actions and hostilities against the civilian population, end the recruitment of children and young people and not place any more landmines,” said Vice President Angelino Garzon at the United Nations human rights forum, while asking the rebel group to “hand over land to compensate the victims of violence as a base for a process of forgiveness and reconciliation.”
The vice president’s comments coincided with the new round of peace talks with the FARC, due to begin on Tuesday. The warring parties are expected to reach a written agreement on comprehensive agrarian reform, the first point on the peace talks agenda.
Garzon stated Colombia still faced “very big challenges to overcome,” pointing to guerrillas, criminal groups, drug traffickers and common criminals as the main generators of violence in the country.
The vice president also highlighted advances made in the field of human rights, while stating that he was not attempting to present Colombia as “the country of wonders,” nor disguise “the difficulties and challenges we still face,” mentioning the lack of social equality, impunity, workers’ rights and a lack of support for human rights advocates, as the main points of issue.
Garzon said Colombia was interested in learning about the experiences of other countries that successfully provided reparations to victims before reaching peace accords with armed actors.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has refused a bilateral ceasefire. According to the head of state, the Colombian armed forces will not stop fighting the country’s oldest rebel group until a peace deal is reached.